Recent activity

PhD position with Red throated Loons (divers)

Grant RW Humphries, November 8, 2017

Are wintering Red-throated Divers under energetic stress? Moving towards an understanding of the consequences of displacement.

PhD advertised at University of Liverpool, supervised by Jon Green (Liverpool University), Francis Daunt (CEH), Sue O’Brien (JNCC) and Ib Krag Petersen (Aarhus University, Denmark).

This is a CASE NERC studentship, with JNCC and Vattenfall as CASE partners. It will involve research of both academic interest and of relevance to the offshore wind industry. There is potential for fieldwork on red-throated divers and a placement at JNCC and/or Vattenfall.

Project Description

Governments across Europe agree that the large-scale construction of offshore windfarms (OWFs) is an effective way to reduce carbon emissions. They also agree that OWFs should not cause excessive impacts on ecosystems and natural populations. However, continued uncertainty about these impacts has stalled progress in OWF development, with birds being of particular concern.

The red-throated diver (RTD) is a migratory marine bird, arguably the most sensitive to disturbance by OWFs. Displacement is commonly observed, but we have almost no idea about the consequences of displacement to individuals and populations. This uncertainty is now causing a significant barrier to consenting of further OWFs.

Using biologging and individual-based modelling, our project will model the consequences for RTDs of displacement by OWFs. Our aim is to help industry as follows:
1. Using existing biologging data on behaviour from Iceland and the UK, develop a broad-scale understanding of RTD foraging, movement and OWF interactions during winter.
2. By deployment of time-depth recorders, develop a fine-scale understanding of RTD foraging and diving behaviour during the winter to assess whether they are under energetic stress.
3. Develop an individual-based model to integrate RTD behaviour, energetics and body condition. Use the model to assess the consequences for RTDs of different kinds of OWF-induced effects.
4. Begin to understand the demographic consequences for RTDs of OWF-induced disturbance.
RTDs are among the least understood of marine birds and a workshop in 2017 convened by JNCC and the OWF industry identified an immediate need for our project so that OWFs in Europe can be allowed to develop. Our supervisory team brings together relevant experts, uniquely-placed to address this problem.

Applications should consist of a CV and a cover letter in which you should describe how and why your interests and experience will match the likely demands of this particular PhD. Applications (CV, including the names and contact details of 2 referees, and a letter of application clearly stating which topic(s) you are applying for) by email to

deadline: January 9th 2018.
Interviews: 14th-16th February 2018.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed for only one project from the ACCE partnership.